Thursday, November 3, 2016

Christian Spiritualities: Mystics and Others

Here is a John Crowder video I chanced upon the other day. I smiled from start to finish for all sorts of reasons.

Crowder is a self-professed modern day Christian mystic whom I know very little about and my purpose in posting the video is NOT to get into a discussion about the merits for or against John Crowder. Rather, it serves to help illustrate Christian spiritualities and how they interplay. Ideally in a healthy way via community, though often in an unhealthy way via tribalism. Something we've been looking into at church recently.

First of all, consider the helpful illustration from Christain Schwarz' book "The 3 Colours of Your Spirituality."

In sum, he suggests people relate to God via the "world" (creation, relationships, beauty), via the "Word" (gospel, cross, Jesus, bible), and via the "Spirit" (various, I guess you could say, unmediated experiences of God). It's limited and flawed but still a helpful tool. It's important to know your home base, that which comes most naturally for you. For me it is "world," as you can see from my test results which I've included in the graphic. As well, it is helpful to know the pathways that come most naturally to you. You can then also consider the pathways either side and the pathways opposite. Though in reality, they all mix together and we're all a bit of everything.

John Crowder's video is a helpful illustration here as it is classically "mystical." He's not quite "sacramental," nor is he exactly "enthusiastic Holy Spirit," but rather, a more mysterious place in the middle. The "sacramental" side of me loves his celebration of life as a joy and gift and a signpost to God, the fatigued "Holy Spirit enthusiast" side of me is a bit skeptical of the laughing revivals etc, though I can see how the "Holy Spirit enthusiasts" out there could find some life in what he is saying. And then, the "doctrinal" side of me, the opposite of "mystical," worries about what exactly he is and isn't saying. How cool is that! The closer you are to "mystical," either on the "enthusiastic" side or the "sacramental" side, the more you might enjoy what John has to say. The more of a "doctrinal" or "scripture driven" type you are, the more you may be troubled.

Learning to learn from one another, help one another, understand one another, and balance one another is surely better than righting off anything that is different to you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bible Reading: Less is More

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light unto my path. 

There is no debate that, as Christians, we are to have some sort of a relationship with the bible. The question though is: what sort of relationship?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This Word then becomes flesh and dwells among us; Jesus Christ. And in regard to Jesus Christ, the Word, the Son of God, we read that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17).

So Jesus, the Word of God, comes not to condemn but to save.

At the same time, we have this other thing often referred to as the word of God; the bible. And yet for many, the relationship with this word of God is often one of condemnation, guilt, and confusion. Not because they're reading and finding the text a source of rebuke or challenge or correction. Rather, it is because they are not reading it and feel guilty.  

And rightly so! Right? After all...

Bible reading is like breakfast, you may not remember what you had, but it keeps you going…

A bible that is falling apart is usually owned by someone who isn’t...

Dusty bibles lead to dirty lives…


I'm not so sure.

For lots of people, myself included, this picture is a pretty good representation of what I understood a relationship with God to look like when I was growing up. 

 The Quiet Time

The technical term was: The Quiet Time.

Supposedly, a relationship with God was outworked via a weekly small group, Sunday church, and one's own daily "quiet times." If asked how many “quiet times” you’d had in the last week, the correct answer was seven. Anything less than seven likely meant one was backsliding. Though in saying that, six was often acceptable with Sunday church letting you off the hook when it came to the "Sunday quiet time." 

January the 1st was the most exciting day of the year when it came to "quiet times." Partly because you could almost guarantee the last half of the previous year would have been a "quiet-time-dessert-of-nothingness." Obviously less than ideal. More than that though, January the 1st meant new stationary! A fresh start with a brand-new journal, new highlighters, new pens (black, blue and red), and if you really wanted to take things up a notch, maybe even a new translation of the bible. It was like the first day back at school for the year and you were ready to write nice headings and underline everything. 

Ideally a "quiet time" was quiet, 30 - 60 minutes long, distraction free and uninterrupted. One would likely be following some sort of bible-in-a-year plan and the reading of the text would be devotional. One would read waiting for a scripture to "pop," for the logos word of God to become a rhema word of God to you and your life and situation. Bible reading would be followed by prayer. 5 minutes per day the first week, 6 minutes per day the second week, 7 minutes per day the third week etc. You'd get stronger and stronger, CrossFit Prayer, though CrossFit hadn't been invented. You'd pray for your church, pray for your family, unchurched friends, the future, The Prayer of Jabez etc.

There is not necessarily anything fundamentally wrong with any of this. At times I've found this practice to be incredibly life-giving. It's intentional, it's God-honoring, it's a discipline, it refuses to squeeze God into the margins, it prioritizes the bible as important in one's faith journey and helps one to become familiar with the bible. I've experienced God speaking to me directly as a passage of scripture I'm reading has indeed "popped" and come to life for my situation circumstances.

At times though it is nothing but a source of guilt, condemnation, confusion and "tick-box" religious duty. 

One feels guilty when they miss a quiet time.

One feels guilty when after a week they are 4 chapters behind in the bible-in-a-year plan, when after a month they are 28 chapters behind, when after 3 months they are 180 chapters behind, and when after 6 months find themselves once again struggling away near the end of Leviticus knowing that the book of Numbers comes next! Oh well. there is always a fresh start in January and all my new pens and highlighters have been lost anyway. And once again there is a sense of failure. 

One feels guilty when they read but nothing goes "pop."

Without too much effort the process becomes condemning rather than life-giving. And, all too often, completion of the "quiet time" is more about appeasing one's conscious (tick off the religious duty for the day), than it is actually about connecting with God in some meaningful way.

On top of this, we've two other realities to consider. Firstly, the whole "quiet time" idea is built around reading and some people just aren't readers. And then secondly, of all the books to try and get non-readers to read, we give them the bible. Ancient Near East and Greco-Roman literature may not be the easiest to tackle! The bible is a tricky book! What’s average Joe reader to make of Leviticus, Job, Ezekiel, Revelation?

The bible is thousands of years old.

It was written in Hebrew in the Ancient Near East. 

It was written in Koine Greek in the Greco-Roman world. 

It was written by a whole bunch of different authors, to a whole bunch of different people, for a whole bunch of different reasons.

It is full of ideas, stories, turns of phrase, and imagery that meant a particular thing, to particular people, at a particular time. 

All of which is really important information in trying to work out what the Bible is getting at sometimes.

The bible is a tricky and complex and challenging book. The bible is hard work.  

The old "quiet time" doesn't really include much space to sort through issues of genre and socio-historical context. Proof texting becomes a lot easier. Find a verse and let it "pop" out to you in order to prove whatever you'd like to prove. 

Take Philippians 4:13 for example. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. A great verse for Tim Tebow before he plays NFL, a great verse as you run into an exam you haven't studied for, a great verse as you launch a new business venture, a great verse as you set out to hitch-hike through war-torn Syria. (Of course no one would ever do that, but if they did, you can bet they'd be the kind of person to quote Phil 4:13). 

It's a great verse but it has nothing to do when any of these things. It's about Paul having learned to find contentment no matter if he has a lot or if he has nothing. Riches or poverty, he can live in all circumstances in a God honoring and righteous manner, through Christ who gives him strength.

Proof-texting can be incredibly dangerous. After all, the bible is so big, so vast, so complex, and written over so many centuries in all sorts of contexts, that you can find a "proof text" for pretty much whatever you want. Indeed, throughout human history wars have been fought, slavery institutionalized, woman treated as property, capital punishment celebrated, and ethnic cleansing enacted all based on the misuse of the bible. A verse or passage of scripture supposedly went "pop" for someone and away they go. 

And so we give this hard, difficult, tricky, ancient book to people who don't really read books at the best of time, not since school, not even a novel, not even the newspaper, and wonder why it sucks the life out of them and fills them with guilt rather than serving as a life-giving way of connecting with God. 

In fact, if you've read this far in this blog post, you are doing better than most people do these days. The internet has destroyed reading. People click from one link to the next, to the next, to the next, to the next. Slow, careful, deep reading is a lost art. Personal reading is at an all-time low, and thus we shouldn’t be surprised that Bible reading is for many at an all-time low.

Well actually, personal reading isn’t at an all-time low. 

I exaggerate. 

The truth is that by-and-large mostly through history humans have been illiterate.

In fact, for the most part Christians haven’t historically had access to their own Bible let alone the possibility of “quiet times” where they could read four chapters a day and get through some Bible-in-a-year reading plan. Christians only started reading the bible "personally" in the 1500’s and even then it took a hundred years and more before Christians started to own their own bible. (And then look what happened... but that's a different story). 

This should be an instant source of comfort. Especially to those who aren't readers, but also to those who find the practice of a "quiet time" to be draining and guilt-laden rather than life-giving. There are other ways of relating to God and relating to the bible. It hasn't always been "quiet times" and it hasn't always been all about reading. We've 1500 years of Christian history without individual bible reading. The point of which isn't to do away with individual bible reading (necessarily), but rather to think more carefully about how we can relate to the bible in life-giving ways. 

More than ever Christians need to be "bible literate" but we should perhaps realize the pathway to bible literacy across the board isn't likely to be more individualistic bible reading. Especially when we consider that we are all wired to connect with God in different ways. 

We won't go into it in great detail, but numbers of different Christian authors have looked at the ways in which different people are wired to connect with God. Christian Schwarz in his book The 3 Colours of Your Spirituality offers nine different pathways that people find meaningful in regard to relating to God. We shouldn't be surprised that different folks on different pathways find they each relate to the bible differently. And the church should make space for this! 

Scripture-driven: These folk love the idea of the "quiet time." This will be incredibly life giving to them, energizing and rewarding. If you are a scripture driven person, and you are still reading this post, you might have found yourself protesting the whole way through. "Quiet times" will be your thing.  

Doctrinal: For doctrine orientated people, they'll appreciate the idea of adding in commentaries to their reading, adding in resources that explain how various traditions have wrestled with scripture and come to make sense of it. They'll be wanting to find "truth" in the bible that is meaningful to "life." 

Rational: Rational type folk tend to start with "life" and then have questions for the bible in light of their experiences of life. They search for "truth" in light of "life."

Sharing: Sharing people are more interested in telling than in reading. They love to share with others that which they have learned and come to a revelation of.

Mystics: For the mystic the bible can be a frustrating barrier to connecting with the Divine at times. An unnecessary intermediary. Mystics can be loose cannons though. Here the bible as God's word becomes a healthy anchor point in life. 

Sensory types and Enthusiasts: Less reading and more experiencing, doing, and engaging suits the sensory and enthusiastic types. Why would you lock yourself away in a room for a "quiet time?" Roll your sleeves up, get out and be the light of Christ in the world, or find the light of Christ in the world.

Sacramental: For sacramental type folk, they are more interested in having communion, sharing a meal, being in nature. "Why more learning about the cross and communion? Have communion, don’t you see that until you take communion it's naught but ideas? As you take communion it comes alive!" They laugh at folk who sit in their rooms reading about the heavens declaring the glory of the Lord and instead buy a telescope and go camping. 

The long and the short of it all is that we’re not all going to relate to the bible the same. We do have to figure out how we are going to relate to the bible though. 

So rather than just more individual "quiet time" type bible reading, here are a few bullet point ideas that might help you in your relationship with the bible. 

1.      We worship Jesus not the bible.

The bible is not a member of the Trinity. The bible is not God. We are followers of Christ not of the bible. Certainly the bible is a great gift to the church in its serving as a signpost pointing to the Word of God that is Jesus. We follow Jesus.

2.      The bible is the word of God that points us to the Word of God.

The bible is helpful in that it points us to Jesus, Jesus who is the inherent, infallible, holy Word of God. Sadly though some people miss Jesus in how they follow the bible. The bible becomes a weapon, a way of crushing others, a heavy weight, a burden, a self-help manual, keys to success and motivation

3.      It’s about bible living not bible reading.

The question is not, have I read four chapters of the Bible today? The question is, have I loved God with all my heart and soul and mind? Have I loved my neighbor as myself? This is what it is all about and you know enough of the bible to get stuck into that for the rest of your life. This in itself should do away with guilt and condemnation. You don’t have to tick the box of 6 or 7 “quiet times.”  Try and tick the box of “doing my best to be like Jesus in the world.”  Of course, you won’t always be able to tick this box. We all blow it from time to time. Find grace and forgiveness in these moments though, not guilt and condemnation.

Having said this, we of course need God’s word to be continually shaping our lives. Of course, of course, of course.

4.      Read the Bible in community.

The Bible wasn’t written to you, nor was the bible written to me. It was written for us but not to us. It was written to particular communities, at particular times, and for particular reasons. These communities would wrestle together to make sense of God’s word to them. Academics, laborers, stay home mums, business people, teachers, teenagers, the elderly, those experiencing heartache and loss, those thriving in life. Scriptures were always worked out in community. 

So, if you are not a reader or not someone inclined towards the scripture-driven or doctrinal pathway, then it is really important to be in a church community that is scripture-driven and has a passion for sound doctrine.

For you though, your bible “reading” may in fact end up being a lot more "bible listening" (as others preach and teach and explain), "bible watching" (as you look at how others in your church community live out the bible in their lives), and "bible conversing" (as you talk with others in your community, ask questions and wrestle with the text together).

It's not all about reading! Listening, watching and conversing maybe the pathway forward for you when it comes to bible literacy. 

Some super spiritual type people might like to declare that this is problematic as you’ll only ever have “second-hand revelations of God” rather than “first-hand revelations of God.” They might declare you to be cutting corners. Don’t worry though, this is stupid for a couple of reasons. Firstly, unless you a reading in Hebrew or Greek you’re already relying on the work of others and it is already second-hand. You have already cut a corner. Secondly, if something is a revelation to you, it is a revelation to you! Any revelation you have is always a first-hand revelation to you. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a revelation.

5.      Less is more, join the “slow Bible” movement.

If you are going to read in community, well the reading gets a lot slower. It is always faster to do something by yourself, of course. It isn’t always better for you though. Inviting others into the conversation will slow it all down, but at the same time has the potentially to bring it all alive.

Invite a couple of friends into conversation. Read the same book of the bible together. Meet up for coffee to discuss.

Invite an expert into the conversation. It is pretty easy to get your hands on really good commentaries. Academic. Pastoral. Everyday life application. You can decide how deep you want to go.

Obviously, this is more reading so it isn’t going to be for everyone. If you are a listener or a watcher or a conversationalist, try to listen to those that read deeply etc.

More reading slows it down. Here though, please understand that less is more. Don’t try to get through the bible in a year. Stop. Try to get through a couple of books of the bible each year and add in an appropriate commentary on each book. Add in some appropriate conversation partners. You’ve got years of doing this ahead of you so slow down.

Tom Wright has a series For Everyone that’d be a good and easily accessible entry point. A basic commentery on every book of the New Testament by one of the world's leading biblical scholars. All written for the everyday reader though. Buy them as a set, buy them one-by-one. 

Maybe rather than a commentary, read a couple of books about the bible. A little bit of understanding of how it works can be a game changer!

Try The Drama of Scripture by Bartholomew and Goheen helps you to understand the big story and narrative arc of the bible. It is excellent. Or perhaps The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns. Enns is laugh-out-loud funny and looks at the dilemmas that come with some of the tricky bits of the bible and the unfortunate ways we have tried to work our way around them. The New Testament Story by Ben Witherington is a great introduction as to how we even came to have the New Testament. Them, Us, and Me by Jacqueline Grey is helpful with the Old Testament, what does that have to do with our lives today? A great book. 

Less is more!

Join the slow bible movement.
After all, anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.

6.      Don’t mistake the bible as a flat text, not all is equal.

Give privilege to the Gospels, the stories of Jesus, the Epistles to the church.

7.      Always read in light of Christ.

8.      Remember that the goal in our reading is that we’d be more like Jesus. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Craft Beer Review: Lion Breweries’ Waikato Draught

Truth be told, this is the first time I’ve sampled Lion Breweries’ Waikato offering, despite it being one of New Zealand's oldest beers. 91 years old apparently!

According to beer historian Mr Wiki, Waikato Draught was originally brewed in Hamilton by the Innes Family Brewery, the first brewery in New Zealand owned by a woman. Lion Nathan acquired the brewery in 1961 with production continuing in Hamilton until 1987 before being moved to Auckland. Unfortunately for Hamilton, this shift to Auckland meant Hamilton officially became New Zealand’s "Most Uninspiring City.” A title held until the first class debut of Daniel Vettori for Northern Districts against England ten years later in 1997. His first wicket, that of Nasser Hussain (caught at first slip attempting to drive), is recognised by the local council of the time as breathing new life into the city and inspired their catch phrase “Hamilton; Where It’s Happening,” Good stuff Lucas! Shortly after they planted a garden and bought some hot air balloons and things have been on the up and up every since. But I digress. In 2005 Waikato Draught won gold in the draught category of the Brew NZ beer awards with its classic beer being described as having a “strong malty flavour with well-defined bitterness.” That’ll be something to look out for!

What else? Technically a draught beer is one poured via a handle and from a keg or cask, now-a-days though Waikato primarily comes in a can or a bottle. In fact, it is rare to find Waikato Draught on tap outside of the 7,067-person town of Huntly. Basically very view taverns are brave enough to invest in a 50 litre keg. It might take 10 - 15 years to work through that much Waikato Draught and not many publicans are willing to sign up to that kind of commitment. Nevertheless, if one is prepared to make the trip to one of Huntly’s local establishments you’ll be able to find Waikato Draught on tap as well as a better-than-average chance of a Thursday night schnitzel special. Just follow the sound of the Waikato chainsaws calling to each other (they don't text over there) and keep a look out for the Huntly Hurricane (aka Lance Hohaia). Draught continues to be used in the title only out of tradition. Other than that, as a malty/bitter beer we’d expect it to be in some way related to the Pale Ale family. Whether a long lost cousin to be welcome home or an ugly step sister, we’ll have to wait and see.    

Let’s see how this goes.

Price: $7.99 4x330mls. Waikato Draught is certainly priced competitively when one compares it to other craft beers we’ve reviewed. Interestingly enough, Waikato Draught gets cheaper per bottle when you buy in bulk. A box of 15 works out at $1.73 per bottle and a box of 24 at $1.66. In theory then, a 249 pack would work out at about .59c per bottle. They’re practically giving it away. Or, maybe my math is wrong.

Alcohol content: 4.0%

Colour: Deep amber and golden hues. Plenty of bubbles and a reasonable white frothy head.

Aroma: Faint notes of sweet toffee are discernable. There is also subtle sour note as well, kind of a mix between 24-hour charity relay sweat, apprentice builder’s body odour, and the sticky wooden floors of the Mount Rugby Club just before church used to start after a Saturday night 40th birthday back in the day.

Palate: Even chilled the sweet malt flavours come through, hints of Pam's golden syrup. Other than that it is simply wet and watery. It is slightly fizzy but totally lacking any body. In terms of strong taste and bitterness; whoever did the write-up extolling the virtues of this draught beer has obviously never sampled a good stout or a quality IPA. I’m not convinced this beer even has any hops in it.

Finish: The initial swig of this beer is quite palatable compared to the finish. The finish is where it becomes pretty off-putting as it is hard to work out what the tangy aftertaste exactly is. Many myths surround what may or may not be the special ingredients used in this brewing process. Since 2011 the general consensus seems to be Beaver's Rugby World Cup winning socks and undies, the very ones worn as he nervously took the kick that became "The Kick." I’m not convinced though. This old misty is even more tangy than that. It’s almost as if someone has combined the muddy water of the Waikato river with select segments of yellow snow from Mount Ruapehu and a hint of Stihl’s HP 2 Stroke chainsaw oil, and then actually put it in the bottle! It's hard to digest.

On the Chart: Well in terms of complexity we’re sitting pretty low. Well let’s be honest, this bit of mooloo magic just isn’t that magical and will line up right at the bottom of the chart. It’s also not hoppy in the slightest. And while it is a touch malty, it's certainly not anything like a deep dark porter or stout. This is pretty middle of the road. A refreshing beer rather than a beer to be savoured. It’s looking pretty lonely on the chart.

Conclusion: Truthfully, Lion Breweries’ Waikato Draught is an easy drink. Easy like a glass of water is easy. There isn’t a lot to it. I’d say that’s why it is sold in 24 packs and maybe even one day in 249 packs for .59c a bottle. I think the idea with Waikato Draught is to come back for more. This isn't craft beer. Craft beer is different. Craft beer is to be savoured rather than skulled, and the flavours, like anything of substance, eventually fatigue the palate. Most craft beers are sold as a single drink, though you do get a few 4 packs and a handful of 6 packs. This particular Waikato Draught was one of 4 but I’m bamboozled as to what to do with the other three; I’m not touching them. Glad I didn't get a box of 24.

In all honesty, it’s not that Waikato Draught is that bad, it more that it just isn’t that good. Why waste time or money on a beer like this? When you want a coffee you go to local cafĂ© for an espresso not to Gregg’s for an instant. It doesn't matter that Gregg calls it a "Special Blend" we know it isn't true. When you want steak you throw a scotch on the grill not a piece of marinated BBQ steak with those lines in it (where do those lines even come from anyway!?!). When you want a beer you pop a Tuatara or a Panhead or something from Garage Project. You stay away from Waikato Draught. At least I would. Quality over quantity I say. Less is more. This is an ugly step sister rather than a Cinderalla. Run!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Craft Beer Review: Moa's Festive Season Belgian IPA

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Eagle Brewery’s RED IPA. In that review I mentioned the wide variety of IPA options that various breweries are coming up with these days. One variety mentioned was a Belgian Style IPA. Essentially this is an IPA brewed with Belgian yeast. Belgian yeast has a very distinct taste and to include it in an IPA changes the beer quite significantly. While off putting to some, others find it a very pleasant flavour. I enjoy the flavour when it is mild but find it pretty overwhelming when it comes through strong. Well funnily enough, after mentioning that two weeks ago, and then reviewing a traditional Belgian style abbey beer last week (delicious), I’ve come across a Belgian style IPA courtesy of Moa Brewing NZ.

Moa Brewing Company is based in Marlborough, New Zealand. While Marlborough is one of New Zealand’s most famous wine regions, Moa Brewing is all about delicious hand crafted beer. They launched in 2003 and have been going from strength to strength ever since. Most of Moa’s beers are bottle conditioned with yeast and sugar added to the brew just before bottling. This means their beers have a cloudy sediment at the bottom, nothing to worry about though, it all just adds to the magic.

Moa promote this beer as an American style IPA brewed with Belgian ale yeast. This little blurb points towards the beer being very bitter / very hoppy, with strong citrus, pine, and fruity notes. This will be followed by a distinctive after taste that comes from the Belgian yeast; off putting to some and delicious to others depending to how strong it comes through. In Moa’s St Joseph Belgium Tripel (yep, that’s right, what a name!) the yeast flavour comes through too strong for me. Other Belgians I’ve had were more balanced and truly delicious. Like Leffe’s Bruin. Yum. 

Let’s see how this goes. It has the potential to be a great combination. 

Price: $7.99 500mls

Alcohol content: 6.0%

Colour: Deep amber gold with plenty of bubbles and a lovely white frothy head. 

Aroma: Strong hoppy smells of grapefruit and tropical fruit. More fruity than herbaceous. 

Palate: Very hoppy but the hops are full of beautiful fruity bitterness. Reasonably fizzy. Really quite lovely. 

Finish: As you swallow you can't miss the distinct Belgian yeast flavour profile coming through. It is beautifully balanced though and comes through quite sweet and not at all over powering. There is a slight sweet toffee like malt finish too. Big bitterness sticks to the roof of your mouth while the lovely sweetness swirls around your tongue and cheeks.  

On the Chart: This festive Belgian IPA is pretty hoppy, probably more out towards the double IPA side of things, which you would expect with an American style IPA (APA). But the sweet yeast and toffee malts certainly add a nice complexity that mixes everything up. So we are well left and with a really great degree of complexity.

Conclusion: This is a really nice beer that has been well executed. The Belgian yeast is slightly milder than how it comes through in Moa's St Joseph, which for me is a positive thing. It's not too pungent. While it is quite a bitter beer the yeast and the malts provide a lovely contrast and everything fits together really nicely. If you like double IPAs or IPAs, and if you like the beers of Belgium, this is a really good combination. Good stuff Moa! 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Exploration and Experimentation: Complines

Here is an invitation to explore and experiment with some Christian practices of devotion that you may not be that familiar with. It doesn’t matter your denomination or background; you can have a go. If you don’t officially class yourself as a Christ follower, perhaps you find yourself undecided on the whole thing, this could be a really meaningful experiment as a part of your journey. Have a read. Have a go. 

At St Luke’s (the church I pastor) we’re exploring some of the ways that people throughout history have outworked their faith in God. Particularly we are reflecting on Christian spirituality, that is; the rhythms, habits, practices and disciplines that have sustained, discipled, encouraged and connected people to God in their journey of following Jesus. These are the kinds of questions we’re considering; how have different people at different times in history engaged in prayer, in fasting, in giving, in worship, in confession, in service, in contemplation etc? How have Christians at different times organised their “devotional life”? Has it always been three chapters of the bible, Radio Rhema’s Word for the Day, and then some sort of S.O.A.P exercise? (Scripture, observation, application and prayer). What other options are there?

I’m convinced that exploration and experimentation with devotional practices new or unfamiliar to us, has the potential to help us connect with God in different ways. There are no guarantees but perhaps some of the practices that traditionally sit outside of classical Pentecostal/Charismatic spirituality might offer fresh ways of embracing God and being embraced by God. Maybe they could even turn out to be transformational. 

This week the invitation is to engage in St Basil’s 4th Century practice of a daily compline. Well, truthfully debate surrounds the origins of the compline with some thinking it originated in the 6th Century with St Benedict. Either way, the compline is a fairly ancient practice.  

In monastic life time is divided in a number of ways. The seasons of the year play a large part in the life of the monastery with husbandry a significant part of monastic life. Likewise, the seasons of the church calendar (also known as the liturgical calendar) shape life in the monastery as well. Organised around the life of Christ the liturgical calendar offers feasts, fasts, celebrations and lamentations for various occasions throughout the year. On a day to day basis though, the canonical hours, as outlined in the Book of Hours, serve to set the rhythm of the day. Rather than get into all the details of the Book of Hours, it’s enough here to say that “compline” was the final organised service of prayer and reflection in the day. Monks would gather together for the prayers of the compline late in the evening and then retire to sleep. Normally the compline served as the transition into The Great Silence of the night were both the monastic community and visitors would observe silence until the morning service of the new day.

These days, as well as being used in monasteries, complines are often used on retreats as a way of bringing to a close the activities of the day and preparing people for sleep. Some families use complines as a way of transitioning into the silence of night and pray through various complines with their children. Of course they can be used by individuals as well, which is what we’ll be doing.

I’m not sure what your practice is before bed and sleep. Perhaps it differs from evening to evening. In our modern world though many people find that their final moments before bed include television, screen time on phones or tablet devices, video games, checking e-mails, checking Facebook, wading through apps, news updates and so forth. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions on this, but I’d humbly want to suggest that there is perhaps a better way to set ourselves up for rest, stillness, silence and sleep. Perhaps a compline could serve as a healthy alternative and different pattern of engaging in rhythms of rest and rejuvenation.

The prayers in a compline are not lengthy and can be offered in a few short minutes. However, the goal is not to race though the compline in order to get it out of the way. Rather, the goal is to create a rhythm that slows one down, helps one to disengage from the tensions and concerns of the past day, and serves to shift our attention to God.

Instructions on how to engage in a compline are offered below, as well as seven complines, Sunday through Saturday. At the end of a week the idea is to cycle back to the original Monday compline and work through the series again. And again. As you become familiar with the prayers you'll find different ideas and depth of meaning in your reflections from week to week. Of course, if you hunt around on the internet or in various Christian prayer books, you won’t struggle to find other complines that can be used as well. Ideally, it would be good to print these out at the start of the week so that you’re not needing to turn your phone on to read. If you do need to use your phone stay away from Facebook etc. 


My first suggestion would be that you set up some sort of “sacred space” where you can complete the compline (and other practices that will be considering in due course). This need not be a room or anything. It could be your bedside table, a shelf or small table next to a favourite reading chair. It just needs to be a place where you can be still and also a place where you can keep various items you may be using in your exploration of Christian spirituality. You’ll need a scented candle, printouts of the complines (in this instance), and I’d recommend any other icons that serve as a catalyst in creating a moment of Christ centered stillness. Bibles, pictures, other devotionals can be helpful. We’re creatures of habit and association. Couch = watching TV. Bed = sleeping. Table = eating. Reading and reflection chair = reading and reflection. You’ll find it helpful to create a space that is your reflection and connection with God space. Back in the day, the term was a “prayer closet” and for many people, it was literally a dark black closet where they could pray out loud without interruption or concern in regard to disturbing others. I’m more inclined to create a more ascetically pleasing kind of sacred space, but hey, I’m not a "yeller."

You should allow 10 – 15 minutes to complete the compline. You could read the prayers in about 2 minutes but that isn’t the point. The compline is about slowing down. After each portion of prayer or scripture, there is a “Selah” moment where you can pause and reflect.

Compline is the last thing you do before going to sleep. You don’t complete the compline and then hop into bed and check Facebook and your e-mail on your phone. Thus the idea is to have brushed your teeth, locked the doors, put the cat outside, tucked the kids in etc. All that is left is to hop into bed and go to sleep. Having sorted these miscellaneous kinds of things light your candle and turn the lights out. You should be able to complete the compline by the light of a single candle without too much trouble. The candle also serves as a symbol of the last light of the day, a diminishing light as rest and sleep beckon.

For the first few minutes simply be still. Practice sitting in silence and stilling you mind. Aim for a sense of contemplative stillness. There is an art to this which is a discussion for another day, but one of the best things to do is “breathe prayerfully.” That is, make each breath in a prayer of thanks for the breath of God that gives you breath and animates all life. Make each breath out a prayer of surrender to the wonder of God.

When one feels suitably still begin reading through the compline. Don’t rush, take your time. At each “Selah” pause and reflect before moving on.

When the compline has been completed extinguish the candle, symbolic of the day coming to an end and retire to bed. Sleep well.

Sunday Compline

The Sacred Three
Father, Spirit, Son
to save
to shield
to surround
our house
this home
this night
and every night.


Search me, O God, and know my heart.
Test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me
and lead me instead in your everlasting way.


Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.


Let the peace of the Spirit be mine tonight.
Let the peace of the Son be mine tonight.
Let the peace of the Father be mine tonight.
In peace will I lie down for it is You, O Lord,
You alone who makes me rest secure.


Lord Almighty grant a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.


Monday Compline

Jesus, Son of the living God,
Let your Spirit guard my sleep tonight.
Watch over me as I rest,
Be present with me in the silence.
May the virtue of my daily work
Make holy my nightly prayers.
May my sleep be deep and easy
That my work might be fresh and true.


Psalm 139:17-18
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!


O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live. Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other's toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. 


May the peace of all peace be mine this night,
May the presence of Christ make me whole,
Christ my shield,
Christ my portion,
Christ my king,
Christ my saviour,
Christ my rock,
Christ my treasure,
Christ my triumph.


Lord Almighty grant a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.


Tuesday Compline

O God, and Spirit, and Jesu
the Three,
from the crown of my head,
O Trinity,
to the soles of my feet
mine offering be.
Come I unto Thee, O Jesu, my King,
O Jesu, do Thou be my sheltering.


As the bridegroom to his chosen,
as the king unto his realm,
as the keep unto the castle,
as the pilot to the helm,
so, Lord, art Thou to me.


Psalm 91:1-7
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armour and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you, 
these evils will not touch you. 


As the music at the banquet,
as the stamp unto the seal,
as the medicine to the fainting,
as the wine-cup at the meal,
so, Lord, art Thou to me.


Lord Almighty grant a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.


Wednesday Compline

Calm me, O Lord, as You stilled the storm.
Still me, O Lord, keep me from harm.
Let all the tumult within me cease.
Enfold me, Lord, in Your peace.


Father, bless the work that is done
and the work that is to be.
Father, bless the servant that I am
and the servant that I will be.


Almighty God, our heavenly Father:
We have sinned against you,
through our own fault,
in thought, and word, and deed,
and in what we have left undone.
For the sake of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ,
forgive us all our offenses;
and grant that we may serve you
in newness of life,
to the glory of your Name.
Grant us forgiveness of all our sins,
and the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit.


The peace of God
be over me to shelter me,
under me to uphold me,
about me to protect me,
behind me to direct me,
ever with me to save me.
The peace of all peace
be mine this night in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.


Lord Almighty grant a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.


Thursday Compline

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone:
my hope comes from him.
I will lie down and sleep.
I wake again,
because the Lord sustains me.
By day the Lord directs his love;
at night His song I with me.
be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.


May God be in my sleep;
may Christ be in my dreams.
May the Spirit be in my repose,
in my thoughts, in my heart.
In my soul always
may the Sacred Three dwell.


Matthew 6:9-13
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power,
and the glory for ever and ever.


Sleep, O sleep in the calm of each calm.
Sleep, O sleep in the guidance of all guidance.
Sleep, O sleep in the love of all loves.
Sleep, O sleep in the Lord of life.
Sleep, O sleep in the God of life.


Lord Almighty grant a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.


Friday Compline

I am placing my soul and my body
in Thy safe keeping this night, O God,
in Thy safe keeping, O Jesus Christ,
in Thy safe keeping, O Spirit of perfect truth.
The Three who would defend my cause
be keeping me this night from harm.   


I call on You, O God,
for You will answer me;
give ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show the wonder of Your great love,
You who save by Your right hand
those who take refuge in You from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
hide me in the shadow of Your wings.


Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours
of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and
chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Save us, Lord, while we are awake,
guard us while we are asleep;
that, awake we may watch with Christ,
and, asleep, may we rest in His peace.


Lord Almighty grant a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.


Saturday Compline

Keep watch, dear Lord,
Over those who work, or watch, or weep this night.
Let your Spirit, dear Lord,
Be near to those who sleep.
Tend the sick, Lord Christ;
give rest to the weary,
bless the dying,
soothe the suffering,
pity the afflicted,
shield the joyous;
all for your love's sake.

Look down, O Lord, from your heavenly throne, and
illumine this night with your celestial brightness; that by
night as by day your people may glorify your holy Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


I love you, O Lord my strength.
The Lord is my rock,
my fortress and deliverer.
My God is my rock
in whom I take refuge.
I will praise the Lord who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me.
Because He is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.


May God shield me;
may God fill me;
may God keep me;
may God watch me;
may God guide me;
may God restore me;
may God bring me this night
to the nearness of His love.


Lord Almighty grant a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.